Fun Michif Words

I’ve just acquired the book Metis Legacy II, which contains a lot of great information about Metis history and culture, including some info on the Michif language and some interesting words, which I shall share with you. I don’t know the etymology of all of these, so some will be written in a less phonetic spelling.

Chimuck – the splashing sound made by something dropped in water, also used as a phrase to mean “dropping in your tracks” or abrupt death. [I’m not sure where this comes from, but it’s used in Michif, Metis English, and Bungee, the extinct dialect of mixed Scottish/Orcadian English, Gaelic, Cree, and Ojibwe.]

Nicimos – sweetheart, a word for girlfriend/boyfriend/feyfriend. Also spelled nichimoose. [From Cree]

Chookamish – expression for looking sheepish, guilty, or unsteady. [I have no info on where this came from.]

Kiyam – a reply, meaning anything from “let it be” to “it’s all right” to “never mind” to “forget about it.” [From Cree]

Mojisair – exclamation of “Oh my God!” Also seen as mojichien. Pronounced “mozhiser,” “mozhishien.” [From French, mon Dieu, seigneur.]

Paskwa – expression for looking shabby or being financially embarrassed, also spelled pusqua. [Uncertain origin]

Mafwe – exclamation, “Oh my goodness!” Also spelled mafway. [Whereas mojisair comes from French, mafway comes from Cree. It also happens to be one of my favorite Michif words.]

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9 comments

  1. paskwa looks like Cree paskwâ- ‘open/bare’ to me. I wonder if that’s where it comes from?

    I’m pretty sure mafway is NOT Cree. There’s no f in Cree, for example. It looks like ma as in possessive ‘my’ from French, doesn’t it?

    Do you guys say something like “aben” (nasalized e on the end) when you stub your toes? 🙂 Métis Cree speakers in Alberta use that.

    1. The paskwâ explanation seems to make sense. And oh, duh, I have no idea why I thought mafway was Cree. I’m not really sure where it comes from. Maybe it comes from “ma foi” meaning “my faith”?

      Ha, I haven’t heard that for stubbed toes, but aben/abaen does seem to be the most popular filler word or exclamation that can be used for almost any emotion imaginable, so I wouldn’t be surprised!

      1. Sometimes the French words in Michif are really ‘obscure’ from a standard French point of view. In Métis Cree, you get terms like lavwâlet for hat, which apparently comes from a term for a nun’s wimple. The Cree in Michif is kind of like this, too – narrowed, specialized stuff. Pretty neat! 🙂

    2. I remember my mom saying ah behn ( the n is silent) when someone falls down.

  2. Mafwe is ma foie in french ( My Faith) we say that when surprised

    1. David Marjanović · · Reply

      That would be “my liver”, but it’s pronounced the same as ma foi. 🙂

      you get terms like lavwâlet for hat, which apparently comes from a term for a nun’s wimple

      La voilette, the little veil?

  3. Mojisair is not Mon Dieu Seigneur is Maudit seigneur you would say that for example when you hit your toe on something

    1. David Marjanović · · Reply

      “Cursed Lord”; immediately reminds me of Italian porco dio and porca madonna.

  4. I am a Metis from Quebec we still speak like this sometimes….

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